To help strengthen existing small businesses, ONE BY ONE, along University Ave before, during, and after the construction of the Central Corridor Light Rail project.
Nearly four years ago Mayor Chris Coleman asked the Neighborhood Development Center (with nine years of business lending training and incubators on University Avenue) to prepare small businesses to “survive” and “thrive” before, during, and after the Central Corridor Light Rail construction. NDC invited a group of seven community development organizations to form the University Avenue Business Preparation Collaborative (U7).
The U7 partners have a long successful history of supporting the growth and development of small businesses, collectively having originated over 800 loans to over 700 small businesses representing capital of over $10 million. Members have also collectively provided more than 28,000 hours of technical assistance to more than 1,200 small businesses.
LRT BEST PRACTICES
The ability of small business on University Avenue to survive Central Corridor light-rail transit (LRT) construction, permanent loss of a major amount of on-street parking and other impacts, as well as their ability to benefit from LRT once it is operational, will vary from business to business. However, the University Avenue Business Preparation Collaborative (U7) believes strongly that there is a two-part equation required to achieve the best possible results for the small ethnic and “Ma and Pa” businesses that line this corridor by the hundreds, and which make up the face, the economic heart and social vitality of our communities:
1. Preparation by each business owner, with help from U7 and other business support providers, is critical. Careful financial planning, expanding a customer base and increasing sales through more effective marketing before LRT, and other improvements could create financial reserves prior to an expected drop in sales and the ability to reach customers and generate sales even during construction.
II. Additional solutions by Metropolitan Council and other government entities are necessary. The parking loss, decreased customer access, and predicted loss of sales during and after construction may, in some cases, be so extreme that no level of preparation from the business alone can overcome this damage. Therefore, additional well-designed, well-funded, and well-implemented corridor-wide solutions by Metropolitan Council and other government entities are necessary to help offset the impacts of LRT.
The impact of the construction of the LRT will be so widespread that it requires this mutually-reinforcing two-part equation to obtain the vision articulated by all leaders and members of our community – that LRT will enhance the communities and small businesses along the avenue, rather than damage them irreparably. While there has been a great deal done on both fronts to date, U7 believes more is required to insure that our shared vision is achieved. We are committed to working with all parties to keep pushing, together, to reach this goal.
Matthew Ides, Executive Director
Gene Gelgelu, Executive Director
African Economic Development Solutions